A list iof recommended reading by Aravind and how each book impacted his life and spiritual journey.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
This was the book - Jonathan Livingstone Seagull - that inspired me to keep seeking! I paste the text below:
Sometimes, little things that enter your life change it for ever! There was a time when I used to read avidly. But my reading was restricted to novels and adventure fiction. Apart from giving me momentary thrill and improving my language, I cannot say that these books did anything else for me. Then, I came across this little life-changer of a book. It was actually gifted to me by one of the devotees who had come to have the darshan of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba at Brindavan.
It was a 120 pages pocket-book and it consisted of 20 pages of photographs. It was entitled, “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull”. I remembered seeing a movie by the same title a few years back and it featured a bird flying everywhere. Far from being touched, I had not even noticed anything significant then. So, I smiled as I pocketed the book.
One lazy afternoon, as I lay on my bed taking a break from the continuous studying, my eyes fell on this book. I picked it and flipped a few pages. I was intrigued by some statements I saw and began to read it. …
I put the book down after 2 hours and I had finished the whole book! I was feeling more refreshed than what a sleep could gift me and suddenly felt foolish at the unnecessary importance I was giving to so many of the worries, tensions and problems in life.
I read the book for the second time the next day - yes, a day before my exams! The book tells a story but as you read it, your inner being perceives another story - a story of your own life. The book is in three parts and as I read them, I felt that while the first chapter symbolised my past, the second symbolised my present and the third- my future! And that simply made me feel so happy, joyous and expansive.
Jonathan is a seagull. In the first part, he gets frustrated with the monotony, futility and and limitation of a gull’s life - waking up, fighting for food crumbs, trying to find the best garbage! “Is this what life is about?”, he ponders and sets out to find fulfillment in life - a life where he can be happy. The experimentation and soaring of his soul is depicted through his experimentation and soaring in flight. He discovers the exhilaration of fast flight and high altitude flight. And this opens up new vistas of fishing and food procurement for him.
In excitement he rushes back to his flock to share the Truth that if one concentrates on loftier goals in life (for life is meant to be for them), then the needs are more than adequately fulfilled. Instead of sharing his excitement, the flock outcasts him. He becomes a rebel now and hates his ‘world’. He feels all alone but moves on undeterred. Everyday he keeps flying higher and faster till he reaches his limits. But he is not happy. ( “Wow! That is just like me.” was my thought as I read this.) And then appear two radiant gulls that tell him, “You have done well. But there is so much more to learn and we will teach you.”
Then, book two begins.
“Birds of a feather flock together” gains an added dimension as Jonathan transcends into a society of gulls that give maximum importance to flying and enjoy flying. While ‘daily bread’ was the binding force in the previous society, here it is the ‘quest for heights’. He finds an experienced gull who teaches him day by day. The learning process, linking the highly experienced teacher and the diligent student, is raised into almost sacred levels, suggesting that this is the true relation between human and God. Some statements that the Master Gull makes dropped my jaw in awe!
"You've got to understand that a seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the Great Gull."
"You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way".
“The secret to perfect flight is to know that you have already arrived.” Then there is no travel or time for travel! Simply awesome...
But Jonathan is still not happy!
Then, book three begins.
As the ultimate teaching, the master advises Jonathan to “Keep working on Love”. You can never really be happy, no matter what you achieve unless you love and forgive. In that realization, Jonathan returns to his flock. His love and forgiveness gets reflected and Jonathan gets followers. He sees in them the ‘Jonathan of the past’.
And thus begins another evolutionary cycle. But here was another poignant observation. Jonathan wants to help the gulls and wants to save them from all the pain he went through. So he decides to gift them the ultimate. He says to them, “You are all nothing but images of the Great gull. There is no difference between you and the Great Gull.”
Nobody is even listening. All the birds want to learn is how to fly fast and fly level! Jonathan smiles to himself and starts teaching from level fight.
I remembered what Sathya Sai Baba says, “Love is my greatest miracle. Not the materializations and healings. The miracles you see are only my calling cards. The greatest is Love and the Truth is that all of you are embodiments of love and hence God!”
But sitting in the audience, I would never get interested in that. And so, Swami would say, “Love all Serve all. Help ever, Hurt never. Service to Man is Service to God.
” Ah! That I can understand.” And I would listen keenly.
A must read book for anyone aspiring for something above the mundane hustle and bustle of life. The life that we are living today may actually not be a life at all!
Topic: SaiStudent Books
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